Sebastopol resident Mary Wyman was arrested on Dec. 20 for civil disobedience in the Hart Senate Office Building in Washington D.C. Wyman was one of 600 individuals marching at a Fire Drill Friday rally, an event created by Jane Fonda to call attention to the climate crisis.
One hundred and forty of the protesters were detained, including Wyman and activists and celebrities Jane Fonda, Gloria Steinem and Rosanna Arquette.
A Sonoma County resident since 1979, Wyman has been a medical provider for 40 years. She earned her first degree at Santa Rosa Junior College, becoming a registered nurse, and completed her education at the UC San Francisco, becoming a family nurse practitioner. Wyman worked as a primary care provider at West County Health Centers for 16 years.
Now she’s come full circle, working at SRJC as a college nurse practitioner at Student Health Services.
Wyman first learned of Jane Fonda’s Fire Drill Fridays through the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments (ANHE). She was already well aware of the devastating effects of climate change. Wyman saw firsthand the impact of climate change on her patients after the Tubbs wildfire that devastated Sonoma County in 2017. She noted a remarkable increase in anxiety, depression, suicidality and homelessness after more than 1,000 SRJC students lost their homes to the fire.
Witnessing her community rocked to its core after the Tubbs Fire, Wyman felt passionately called to raise awareness of the climate crisis. Having a daughter and two granddaughters, Wyman said she feels a moral obligation to leave the planet in the best shape possible for the inheriting generations.
The leaders of ANHE prepared Wyman and other nurses who were committed to joining Fonda and hundreds of activists in a Fire Drill Friday rally in Washington, D.C. Fonda had been detained four times before in previous Fire Drill Friday rallies.
Wyman understood she’d have a choice during the rally to be detained, thus she prepared accordingly. Not knowing how long she’d be held in jail or if she’d be granted basic amenities such as food and water, she made herself an “arrest kit.” This included snacks, $50 for bail and a printed copy of the “Get Out of Jail Free” card from the board game, Monopoly, that her brother gave her for good luck.
Wyman arrived at the Capitol Building on Friday, Dec. 20, ready to add her voice to the collective cry. It was the day before Fonda’s 82nd birthday. Several of Fonda’s friends and family members were in attendance. Other celebrities at the protest included Eve Ensler and Annie Leibovitz. More than half a dozen speakers addressed the crowd of over 600 before marching and chanting to the Hart Senate Office Building.
“I was filled with an incredible sense of hope and empowerment knowing there are so many individuals fighting for change,” Wyman said. “Being with others strengthened my voice and clarified my intention. There were activists from all walks of life. I witnessed how much effect one person can have when they put their full being into it.”
Upon arrival at the Hart Senate Office Building, participants entered the first floor and created a peaceful sit-in protest. Hundreds of individuals were chanting and singing about the climate crisis for senators, staffers and all to hear.
The police arrived, instructing the crowd to disperse. Participants were threatened with arrest if they did not comply. Wyman was one of 140 individuals who were willingly detained. She continued to sing and chant as she waited for her turn to be handcuffed and escorted out.
Everyone arrested was handcuffed with zip ties. Seniors were given the choice to be handcuffed in front rather than behind their backs. Both Wyman and Fonda opted for in front.
Shortly after being handcuffed, Wyman had an opportunity to speak to Fonda directly.
“As I was describing to Jane my concern for my community and everything my patients and loved ones have experienced, I got choked up and had to stop. So I changed course and told her this was the first time I had ever been arrested.”
Fonda raised her cuffed wrists and put a hand on either side of Wyman’s cheeks and told her, “I am so glad this was the reason.”
The 140 detained individuals were transported to a warehouse where they were held without food or water for several hours.
Wyman was frisked twice during her detainment. The first officer overlooked her cellphone and Get Out of Jail Free card. Concerned she would get in further trouble, Wyman approached another officer and surrendered her cellphone. She took the opportunity to give the officer her Get Out of Jail Free card. She was happy to win a smile from the otherwise stern policeman.
“A moment that captured both of our humanity,” Wyman said.
Six hours later she was released after paying a $50 fee.
What was her biggest take away from this experience?
“I want to make it clear, you don’t need a celebrity to progress a social movement,” she said. “Each of us has a role to play in this crucial effort to save our gorgeous earth.”
In conclusion, Wyman said, “Being there with other nurses made for an extremely soul-satisfying day. I felt a shift in my understanding of what I can do. Rather than feeling powerless, others can do this too. Collective action works.”